There are many ways to approach the study of history in your homeschool. Some of us choose to study history chronologically, rotating through a 3 to 5 year cycle.
But there’s not only one right way to study history! If the thought of history makes you yawn, have you considered following your child’s interests (or maybe even your own) when homeschooling history?
Benefits of interest-led learning in homeschool history studies
When we use our child’s natural interests as a jumping-off point, we make the most of their natural desire to deep-dive a topic they love.
Not only does learning become more enjoyable (and who isn’t here for less fighting over homework assignments?!), but children retain more information when they’re already interested in learning more about the material.
How to incorporate other subjects into the history curriculum
But, I can hear you arguing, my child is not interested in history at all!! What to do now?!
Aha, that is where the superpower of finding the secret connections between history and other subjects comes into play!
10 Best Ways To Make Homeschooling History Fun!
Have a child who is fascinated by science? They can study history biographically through studying the lives of the great scientists or even study the history of a particular topic like the periodic table.
Have a child who loves animals? Consider the history of veterinary medicine or the role of horses throughout time.
Have a child who can’t get enough of numbers? Learn how mathematics impacted the lives of the Ancient philosophers or follow the history of mathematicians through the ages.
Pretty much anything your child finds fascinating intersects somewhere with history, it just takes a bit of creative thinking to connect the dots.
How interest-led learning fosters love for history
When you begin with your child’s interest, they are less likely to roll their eyes, choose to be bored, and write off the subject entirely.
Instead, they’ll be able to see history for the adventure story it is… a story about people just like them, doing incredible things in the midst of sometimes very ordinary (or even difficult) lives.
They’ll grow to appreciate the people in the stories, which does more to encourage a love for history than anything else. After all, lists of facts and dates are usually hard to love. But our children are naturally drawn towards heroic characters in the stories they read… and when we are studying history, those heroes just happen to be real!
Plus, when children are less bored with a subject they are more likely to retain the information they learn. And the process of remembering, pondering, and playing enables us to love history more.
Start with good books
Where do we start? Anyone who knows me at all won’t be surprised to hear me suggest starting with a good book list!
Now, if your child isn’t a reader, don’t skip this section. I promise there are ways to bring books into the lives even of struggling or reluctant readers!
One way is to utilize audiobooks. No matter the age of your child, audiobooks can be a great way to bring more history to the homeschool day. My youngest son listens constantly while building with Lego. My middle daughter cleans her room (I know. Nerd.) and does crafts. Our family enjoys audiobooks on car rides. There are so many excellent history audio books available for every age.
Also, I like to remind us all that you’re never too old for a picture book. You can assign picture books even to older children as independent reading assignments, but I find it works better as a read aloud. I love gathering many ages from little to teen around me on the sofa and reading a beautiful picture book together!
And speaking of gathering together, read alouds are another wonderful way to bring history to the whole family. Historical fiction is a great way to do this (we recently read Across Five Aprils together and loved every minute), but there are also some great non-fiction history books that make great read alouds.
And, of course, independent reading is a fabulous option for a confident reader. I often will read a spine book or two aloud to everyone and then assign individual children independent books based on their age and interests.
Incorporate Fun Activities into History Lessons
Fun activities are one of the best ways to engage your children’s interests and make history lessons their favorite part of the homeschool day.
It’s always great to find a hands-on activity that fits your child’s interests.
Does your child enjoy art? They may enjoy copying great masterpieces of art from the time period you’re studying or following art tutorials related to their history topics.
Reenactment, skits, and drama are fun for your theatrical child! If your child doesn’t like the idea of acting out themselves, they can do a reenactment with their stuffed animals or Lego pieces.
Another fun idea is to recreate historical artifacts. This might look like sewing a historic costume, replicating a bit of architecture, cooking common recipes from the time period and cultures you’re studying, or even reproducing a historic weapon.
And perhaps the simplest idea is to keep a timeline or Book of Centuries. This is something you can add to each year in your homeschool to help your children place historical events in their context.
Documentaries, movies, and TV shows are fun for all ages! Use whatever streaming service your family already enjoys and search for topics related to your homeschool history studies. My kids have really enjoyed Liberty’s Kids when studying the American colonial era, Sergeant York when studying WW1, and several of the Ken Burns documentary series on a variety of topics. They’ve also enjoyed several of the Crash Course videos on YouTube. You can use a resource like Common Sense Media to check on content advice depending on your child’s age and sensitivities.
There are also websites and apps that can make learning more interesting for your tech-minded kids. Khan Academy, for example, has resources for every age up to AP history studies!
If you’re new to gameschooling, jump on this bandwagon! One of our family’s favorite history games is Trekking Through History, but there are so many options out there. Here are a few of my friend Jessica’s favorite history games.
Now, my personal favorite activity when studying history is field trips. Nothing makes my heart go pitter patter like a brown sign by the side of the road directing us to a historic site or battlefield!
You can even use the sites local to you as inspiration for your homeschool history studies.
Now, it makes it a little more difficult if you’re studying Ancient Greece and living in the middle of the U.S. Travelschooling is cool, but not an option for most homeschool families. That’s where virtual field trips come in.
Many museums and historic sites have incredible websites with virtual field trip capabilities! You can explore historic structures through photos, videos, and sometimes even interactive games. A little googling can go a long way!
Interact with Primary Sources
Interacting with primary sources in our homeschool history lessons is an important part of coming to more deeply understand the mindset and perspectives of those who came before. Learning to empathize with and understand people who are different from us is a life skill we certainly want for all of our children!
You can read speeches from the past, recite them aloud or memorize them as a family, and even listen to recordings of speeches from the more recent past. Here are some of the best historic speeches to include in your homeschool, including a free pdf download.
Look for poets who lived in the time period you’re studying in history. Are you studying ancient Greece? Consider adding in an excerpt from Homer to your next poetry tea time. Are you studying the history of Japan? Learn more about the literary art of Haiku. Another option is to find poetry written about the time period, even if it was written by a modern poet. For instance, “Ozymandias” is one of our family’s favorite poems!
Other historic documents
Don’t stop with speeches and poetry! There are many other original sources to consider. Autobiographies, political documents (like The Declaration of Independence), and even collections of letters can be a great addition to your homeschool history lessons.
How will you bring interest-led learning into your homeschool history plans this year?
Special thanks to Amy Sloan, from Humility and Doxology for sharing her wisdom with us in this post!
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.